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Open Access Research article

Spatial distribution and male mating success of Anopheles gambiae swarms

Abdoulaye Diabaté12*, Alpha S Yaro3, Adama Dao3, Moussa Diallo3, Diana L Huestis1 and Tovi Lehmann1

Author affiliations

1 Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland 20852, USA

2 Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé/Centre Muraz, Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

3 Malaria Research and Training Center, University of Bamako, Bamako, Mali

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:184  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-184

Published: 28 June 2011

Abstract

Background

Anopheles gambiae mates in flight at particular mating sites over specific landmarks known as swarm markers. The swarms are composed of males; females typically approach a swarm, and leave in copula. This mating aggregation looks like a lek, but appears to lack the component of female choice. To investigate the possible mechanisms promoting the evolution of swarming in this mosquito species, we looked at the variation in mating success between swarms and discussed the factors that structure it in light of the three major lekking models, known as the female preference model, the hotspot model, and the hotshot model.

Results

We found substantial variation in swarm size and in mating success between swarms. A strong correlation between swarm size and mating success was observed, and consistent with the hotspot model of lek formation, the per capita mating success of individual males did not increase with swarm size. For the spatial distribution of swarms, our results revealed that some display sites were more attractive to both males and females and that females were more attracted to large swarms. While the swarm markers we recognize help us in localizing swarms, they did not account for the variation in swarm size or in the swarm mating success, suggesting that mosquitoes probably are attracted to these markers, but also perceive and respond to other aspects of the swarming site.

Conclusions

Characterizing the mating system of a species helps understand how this species has evolved and how selective pressures operate on male and female traits. The current study looked at male mating success of An. gambiae and discussed possible factors that account for its variation. We found that swarms of An. gambiae conform to the hotspot model of lek formation. But because swarms may lack the female choice component, we propose that the An. gambiae mating system is a lek-like system that incorporates characteristics pertaining to other mating systems such as scramble mating competition.

Keywords:
Anopheles gambiae; mating success; lek; scramble competition